MAIL SACK 13 - Volkswagen Dieselgate Death Toll

volkswagen dieselgate death toll

In this episode:

  1. Chiron: the even more irrelevant, outrageously expensive and faster Bugatti that can still never be driven on Australian roads.
    Video Timecode 0:38 or Transcript here >>
  2. The end of the line for the Holden Cruze. Woof woof.
    Video Timecode 3:37 or Transcript here >> 
  3. How many people will the Volkswagen dieselgate scandal kill prematurely.
    Video Timecode 8:22 or Transcript here >>
  4. Why those defective Volkswagen engines can’t be fixed without hurting power and economy.
    Video Timecode 5:53 or Transcript here >>
  5. Plus a religious nutbag who really doesn’t like these videos.
    Video Timecode 16:03 or Transcript here >>


Move over, Bugatti Veyron - the Bugatti Chiron is set to become the new world’s fastest car. The quad-turbo W16 - basically two V8s dry humping each other - will make just over 1100 kilowatts and 1600 Newton-metres - or 1.1 megawatts, and 1.6 kilonewton-metres. Chiron has the most powerful production car engine ever.

Chiron should be faster than the Veyron, which has an official top speed of 431km/h. Chiron is so fast - 0-100km/h in 2.5 seconds - that Michelin had to design special tyres that wouldn’t explode at those kinds of relatavistic speeds.

(The name Chiron actually refers to a brainy centaur in Greek mythology, which taught Achilles, et. al.)

It weighs just under two tonnes and drives all four wheels through a seven-speed auto. Bugatti actually bled money hand over fist on each of the 450 Veyrons it made - and they’re not planning a repeat of that financially exsanguinating performance with Chiron. Two-point-five million Euros plus taxes is the proposed Chiron pricetag - more than double that of the original Veyron. That’s just under $4 million Aussie dollars - about five million if you include the luxury car tax. It’s rather a lot for a car you can never, ever drive on Australian roads. Because that would be illegal.

In total, 500 Chirons will be made.


Mark Bernhard, GM Holden’s chairman and MD, announced the early closure of the Holden Cruze production line, slated for October this year. In the official statement he said:

“Our people remain our number-one priority.”


Really? This seems like an epic example of pure corporate dribble. Since when was it a good communication strategy to take the absolute truth of a situation and then say the exact opposite? (Except if your wife asks you if her arse is getting bigger.) This Holden statement doesn’t seem to be just a light massage of the truth, with a happy ending. This seems to be outright falsehood sexed up with the appearance of empathy. Closing the Cruze production line early seems self-evidently to be Holden’s number-one priority. That’s primarily what Holden is doing. Four hundred more Holden jobs will go. If that is an example of GM Holden making people, quote: the number-one priority, I’d hate to see what happens when people come last.

It’s time for GM Holden to drop the spin-inspired bullshit, to stop faking empathy, to lose the massaged political correctness and just fess up. Talk openly, honestly and authentically to people. It’s the only solution. This part of the factory is closing early because the Cruze is a horrible little shitbox that has disgraced itself by the thousands, and the Holden brand, while its key competitors - the Corolla, Mazda3 and i30 have not.

Cruze sales have halved - in just four years - because word simply got around. Holden is on the fast-track to irrelevance, and talking to potential buyers as if they are morons, with platitudes, making indefensible statements, sexing it up with the oxymoron that is corporate caring, will not help. It’s time for Holden to make a change, and get real.

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This report is based on a question from Malcolm Warwick, who says:

Malcolm, the short answer is: You can’t - it’s thermodynamically impossible to fix the problem without putting a dent in economy and performance. It works like this: If you’re an engineer, tuning up an engine, there’s this exhaustive, iterative process of tweaking a million variables to get it right. There’s a sweet spot where the amount of air you tip in is just right for the amount of fuel - emissions are minimised and fuel economy and power output are decent.

What Volkswagen did (and when I say Volkswagen, I also mean their scumbag sub-brands Audi and Skoda, Porsche, etc.) What they did was burn the engines a lot leaner than that. See, if you take the ideal air-fuel ratio, and add more air, you get more power at the crank, but emissions go through the roof. Everything in life is a compromise. Air is about 80 per cent nitrogen, and in a lean mixture, some of that nitrogen starts reacting with some of the excess oxygen (as opposed to what you really want - which is for nitrogen merely to pass through the combustion chamber unaltered except for getting quite a bit warmed up).

So the fix is to get the engine running richer, right? Add more fuel (or reduce the air - same thing). That’s what the software fix will do - or the restrictor they’ll put in the inlet airway. Either way, or both, to get emissions under control they will need to sacrifice economy and power. There’s no way around it. It’s fundamental combustion mechanics. But those oxides of nitrogen need to come down. They’re very bad for human health - I detailed all of that in my report: 

Those criminal assholes. And it turns out they are actually killing people.


Seven leading academic researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University in the United States have published a report on the human health impact. The authors say 59 premature deaths will likely be caused by Volkswagen’s criminal conduct. Cost to American Society: $450 million (that’s US dollars).

That’s in the USA alone, where only about 500,000 vehicles are tainted by the emissions scandal. The total globally is more like 11 million vehicles. And if you extrapolate that result - that’s about 1400 people who are going to die early, around the world, as a result of Volkswagen’s criminal misconduct.


That is unconscionable. It might not be entirely appropriate to extrapolate like that - so the global death toll might be more or less, but it’s going to be a big number. Well beyond the point of: don’t worry about it.

You’d think the Germans, of all people, and Adolf Hitler’s car company in particular, would still be somewhat touchy about making decisions at the highest level to gas people to death. But apparently not. To put this in perspective, the Takata airbag recall - widely viewed as the current major global automotive safety scandal - involves the recall of something like 53 million vehicles. Nine deaths are thought to be related to that. (That’s if you include the prematurely delivered baby in Malaysia whose mother died as a direct result of Takata airbag schrapnel. The baby was delivered but died, sadly, a few days later.) Nine deaths from Takata airbags - not quite 1400, is it?

Here in Australia, much of the media - pumped up as it is by Volkswagen’s advertising dollar - is still providing a metaphoric blowjob-on-demand service for brands like Volkswagen and Audi. Lawyers running the class action against Volkswagen apparently could not find a radio network that would run their ads, according to Media Watch, and the likes of Carsales and Wheels Magazine remain effusive in their praise for Volkswagen, and inclusive of Volkswagen brands in their respective car of the year awards. To me that seems either wonderfully corrupt or astoundingly disconnected from reality.

CarAdvice founder Alborz Fallah, who in my view probably should not tackle such lofty issues, wrote what seems a breathtakingly out-of-touch op-ed piece entitled ‘Why I’d Still Buy a Volkswagen’. Such is the apparent gravitational pull of those agency advertising dollars…

There’s one notable exception on the media landscape (present company excepted): That’s Australia’s car clubs: the NRMA, RACV, RACQ and their counterparts around the country. They represent more than seven million Australian motorists - and they actually had the balls to disallow Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda from their recent Australia’s Best Cars awards. Ethics and morality float to the top when the big bucks of advertising aren’t part of the commercial model. NRMA President Kyle Loades said it was, quote:

Audi Australia spokesperson Anna Burgdorf - and I can just imagine the blood pressure - really, I suspect, not all that happy with such an independent public shaming, is reported to have said:

Volkswagen Australia hit back too. Local VW boss Michael Bartsch is reported to have said:


Unfortunate grandstanding, indeed. And not at all presumptuous for a junior-burger CEO (And by that I mean the CEO of a subsidiary of a subsidiary of a subsidiary, who’s been in the job for, like three months.) Not at all presumptuous for a disgruntled outsider in a suit to tell the car clubs how they should have played it. Grandstanding means ‘to seek favour from spectators or the media’ - I’m really not sure that sidelining the vehicles as a result of globally contemptible conduct qualifies. Grandstanding: A perverse accusation, from someone ultimately representing a corporation that apparently lacks even a vestigial moral compass, and who, himself appears to me to be grandstanding. Those motoring club bastards. Victimising Volkswagen and Audi like that. How dare they? Pulling our pants down in public. Now everyone can see our wedding vegetables, and it’s a cold day. What did we do to deserve this humiliation? This unfair treatment? What have we ever done to them?

Let me give you a hint, Mr Barsch, Ms Burgdorf: What Volkswagen did was tantamount to intentionally gassing something like 1400 people around the world to a premature death. And each one of those 1400-ish people has or had a life that was just as important to them as yours is to you. Volkswagen knew exactly what it was doing. They didn’t just trip over in the sauna and fall face-first into a hooker’s cleavage and let out some gas. It was intentional. At least the Takata airbag fiasco stems from a mistake. An unintentional defect. This, however, is pre-meditated. Please tell me you know that playing the victim card here, on behalf of this corporation, is one of the most epically indefensible communication gambits. If some religious nut gasses 1400 people on a subway - slightly less than half the September 11 death toll - we’d call them a terrorist. We could. The fact that this is a decentralised exercise, with the deaths as a consequential outcome, and not the main game, does not explain it away or encourage forgiveness.

I get that the advertising-based media sucks car company cock. It’s what they do. They have to - and it does wonders for their credibility, obviously - every car is great - Why I’d still buy a Volkswagen. But the motoring clubs are not constrained commercially in this way. They’re not soliciting for Volkswagen’s advertising dollar. So I guess ultimately money talks - but it’s a bitch when the truth actually gets a run in parallel. So well done, Australian motoring clubs. A victory for journalism, not to mention the truth. I salute you.

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Time for that spooky segment where we oxygenate the nutbag fringe. If you’ve ever wondered why extraterrestrial life declines to make contact, it might be because of people like YouTube commenter Doctor Graphix, who says:

Spooky, isn’t it? That Bronze Age language. Begotten. Wrath. Before you time is up. I can almost feel Satan himself dancing a little jig on his cloven hooves and warming up a special wifi hotspot in hell.  My last editorial broadside at religion, as a joke, concerned Moses - you know, the dude who parted the Red Sea, allegedly, and who allegedly climbed a mountain so that God could give him the alleged moral code of conduct for humanity, inscribed on two clay tablets.

Importantly, if you believe this crap, Moses had to climb the mountain to get closer to God, who is - obviously - up there in Heaven, which as we all know is in the clouds. Just follow the harp music. This is a long time before the Wright Brothers. The clouds must have seemed so fundamentally inaccessible. And these vital clay tablets, let’s not forget, had to be handed over when nobody else was looking, of course. Because - of course - God had a bit of (I dunno) carpal tunnel syndrome that day and couldn’t reach all the way down to sea level with those heavy tablets. And he hadn’t invented physiotherapy yet. Or orthopedic surgery. Obviously.

Another option would have been for the big guy to swoop down to the most heavily populated city on earth in, I dunno, the Millenium Falcon, and magic up a 30-metre tungsten carbide sphere that just, I dunno, hovers off the deck to this day and spins lazily in the breeze, with the commandments laser-etched into them. Just saying. For credibility’s sake. For cut-through. What good is being all-powerful if you’re still writing stuff down on clay? I mean, who seriously believes this shit? A dumb child is too smart for this.

But let’s assume it’s all true and we all believe that bullshit in the Bible. If you believe that crap, you have to own it. And you have to own the fact that Moses was a terrorist. Correction: The terrorist. Best-ever terrorist. Moses makes Osama bin Laden look like an under-achiever. With the alleged assistance of God, which sounds like spin right there, Moses attacked Egypt with weapons of mass destruction no less than 10 times - bioweapons - whatever. He killed the first-born in every household (which, let’s face it, is a lot worse that flying a few jets into buildings, except that actually happened) and when he got done with his first-born-smiting project, Moses unleashed another nine WMD attacks, some of which sound like bioweapons (the blood and the boils), some of which sound like a nuclear first strike (the darkness), and some of which (such as the frogs - true story - look it up) the frogs sound like a really bad LSD flashback from the Sixties.

Suck it up, Doctor Graphix. If you believe the Bible, Moses was a terrorist who - were he alive today - he’d be dodging drone strikes all over Islamabad until that fateful night when Seal Team Six parks a Black Hawk in his backyard so he can meet up again with God, only this time, the old-fashioned way. The Bible is a nice idea, like having Donald Trump for President, or a pet chimpanzee. But one day, you know, Donald Trump is going to break out of his cage and rip your face off. It’s a risk. There are two kinds of people in the world, Doctor Graphix: Atheists and the mentally ill. 

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